Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Championship Sneak Peek: The Mass Amateur

Another historic championship, another awesome club. Ho hum.

Just kidding! We are so excited to bring our oldest and most venerated event, the Massachusetts Amateur Championship, to Oak Hill Country Club in Fitchburg. Oak Hill is plenty historic, but surprisingly has only hosted this event once before! The club, officially organized in 1921, has hosted the Mass Open six times in its history, as well as a handful of other MGA, NEGA, and WGAM Championships.

The story of Oak Hill goes back nearly a century and is similar to many of our most historic Member Clubs - a group of friends who loved golf wanted a place where they could play and socialize. So ground was broken on a new Wayne Stiles-designed nine-hole golf course in May of 1919, with the club open for play on July 4, 1921.

And then came along our old friend Donald Ross. Oak Hill hired him in 1925 to design a second 9 holes, which opened in 1927 with an exhibition match between Tommy Armour and Johnny Farrell. The membership liked Ross's 9 so much that they hired him again the following year to re-design the original 9 holes.

The first tee at the 1935 Mass Open at Oak Hill: (L-R) Champion Gene Sarazen, Dave Hackney, Jesse Guilford

From a 2007 Worcester Telegram article:

Oak Hill Country Club in Fitchburg is scheduled to host the 2011 Massachusetts Open and the 2015 Massachusetts Amateur and the members plan to make the course better than ever before then. 

Ron Pritchard, a Donald Ross restoration expert, is preparing a master plan to update Oak Hill. Ross designed Oak Hill’s back nine, which opened in 1927, and later renovated the front nine, a Wayne Stiles design, which opened in 1921. 

“Most of what he’ll do,” Tom Bagley, a former Oak Hill president and current member of the grounds committee, said, “is try to restore as much of the lost character as he can, but making allowances for the fact that the golf ball is going farther than it ever had and repositioning tees and perhaps adding a bunker or two.” 

The master plan will need board approval and work may not begin for a couple of years, but it should be finished by the 2011 Mass. Open. Bagley figures another 200 yards could be added to stretch Oak Hill beyond 6,800. 

Bagley has begun research for a book celebrating the club’s 100th anniversary and he has found documentation that Ross visited Oak Hill in 1925. As many as 400 Ross designs are dismissed as courses Ross designed on paper, but never visited. Courses where Ross was known to have been directly involved in construction are considered superior to courses where he wasn’t, Bagley said. 

Ross returned to Oak Hill in 1935 when Gene Sarazen won the Massachusetts Open and Ross was presented with a medal by the Massachusetts Golf Association in recognition of his Mass. Open title 30 years before. Sarazen won the second Masters earlier that year and made his famous double-eagle on the 15th hole. 

Circa 1926 - the original clubhouse with golfers on the Wayne Stiles-designed 5th green

After a fire destroyed the clubhouse in 1941, the members rebuilt, with the structure of the 1942 clubhouse still standing today. Though the interior of clubhouse has been renovated and brought into the 21st century, you can just feel the history in a place like this - just think of the names that have played at Oak Hill and been through the clubhouse: Ouimet, Guilford, Sarazen, Bishop, Zaharias...some heavy hitters for sure!

And in just a few short months, Oak Hill will host the state's best amateur golfers for five grueling days of championship golf. Who will take the title this year and add his name to our impressive list of past champions?

Qualifying for the Massachusetts Amateur Championship begins on June 4 and wraps up on July 1.

Click here to read a MassGolfer feature on Oak Hill from 2011

Click here for Championship History

Friday, February 13, 2015

Leading the charge

Inspired by USGA Handicap Week, we decided to pore through our MassGolfer Magazine archives for some content. While Championships are the 'pretty' part of our business, a lot of people don't realize that without the Handicapping and Course Rating departments, we wouldn't have much of a reason to exist. These two services are by far the most important and highly utilized member services that we provide.

Back in 2007, we published a feature story called 'How (and why) We Rate.' Did you know that the MGA created the first ever Course Rating System all the way back in the 1920's? We truly were at the forefront of the movement to make the game of golf more equitable (and more enjoyable) for golfers of ALL abilities.

Well we know how Handicapping factors in, but how does a Course Rating work in tandem with handicapping to help make the game more equitable? Using slope ratings established as part of the Course Rating process, 'a golfer's handicap established at one course is adjusted for another course. The result: handicap portability and equitability.'

So how does your course handicap work? Well we've explained that as well!

So once this snow ever melts and you get back out on the course, take a moment to appreciate the work that is done by your friendly Course Raters.

And if you don't have a Handicap Index, you should get one! Out of the 25 million people that play golf in the United States, only about 3 million of them have a Handicap Index. Well that is just ridiculous. You're leaving all these Member Benefits on the table! Establish your index with us this season! With a GHIN number and an active index held at a club in Massachusetts, you can play in outings, your buddy's Member-Guest Tournament, MGA events, and more. And you can also track your progress and take advantage of the many benefits that we provide to our Member Golfers!

If you have questions about obtaining a GHIN number, please contact Scott Guild at

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What's your handicap?

Did you know that this week is USGA Handicap Week? Handicapping is one of the most important services that we provide to our individual members and Member Clubs. The USGA Handicap System allows golfers of all skill levels to compete on an equitable basis...and have fun while playing! And isn't that the most important thing?

The active Handicapping season in Massachusetts begins on April 1st...we're almost there!

There are so many resources available to help you learn more about why handicaps are important. Check out what the USGA has to offer by clicking here.

Additionally, we are joining forces with the USGA to host a Handicap Seminar at Pleasant Valley Country Club on March 25. This seminar, which is invaluable for club personnel and especially Handicap Chairmen, is open to the public. Scott Guild, our director of handicapping, will be staying after the formal portion of the seminar to host an informal Q&A where attendees can ask anything and everything.

Stay up to date with all the resources presented during Handicap Week by searching #USGAHandicapWeek on your social networks. Only a few weeks until we can start posting scores again!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Championship Sneak Peek: The Mass Open

Instead of looking outside and seeing this:

Wouldn't you like to see this?

Well in just four short months (aka an ETERNITY), you will be able to! Let's not even talk about the fact that I had a dream last night that it was snowing the week of the Mass Open...

But I digress. The 106th Massachusetts Open Championship will take place at the very scenic Black Rock Country Club in Hingham. While Black Rock may not enjoy a long and storied history, having been founded in 2002, it is a pretty neat place and a club that we are thrilled to bring one of our most historic events to - there are so many interesting and different elements on this golf course that will definitely challenge our best players.

Did you know that Black Rock is situated within a rock quarry that was active as recently as 1998?! The owners of the land selected Brian Silva to create a championship caliber golf course among this unconventional piece of land. Silva has designed some of the Bay State's most acclaimed new courses, including Cape Cod National and Renaissance. Silva knew he had a challenge on his hands but wanted to incorporate the natural elements of the rock quarry. What he ended up with was ranked in GolfWeek's 'Top 100 Modern Courses.' But this project may not have come to fruition without an owner like George McGoldrick.

The story begins in 1992 when George McGoldrick moved to the south shore. Though he loved the area, a key attribute was missing and that was the ability to play a golf course nearby. The private clubs had a ten year plus waiting list, leaving McGoldrick and his friends little option but to drive for an hour just for the opportunity of playing a five hour round at a crowded public course.

As a developer, McGoldrick appreciated that the high end demographics of those around the greater Hingham area thirty minutes south of Boston supported a golf course. The rub was where to find a block of land big enough for both a course and real estate component. McGoldrick became aware of a 200 acre rock quarry that recently traded hands and was presently owned by Jim Read. Of course, a rock quarry presented all kinds of construction challenges but it did have one benefit: other parcels of land around it were available for sale as no person or business voluntarily elects to locate beside an active rock quarry!
Now it is one of the most sought-after residential golf course developments in eastern Massachusetts. It is really interesting to read the story of how this course was built (in the words of Brian Silva):

Finally there are 18 holes on paper.And in the best situation – and I had the best situation at Black Rock – there is a guy like George McGoldrick who sticks with you. Without that, the majority of the paper holes have no chance of becoming golf holes on a site like this. And it keeps going along – some holes fit land in a good way – 7, 16, 2, 9, 12, 14, 15 – while others are what the hell can be done to make this a golf hole! I need as good a client as I can ever find to make it work type of golf holes. Some holes jump at you off the background map – some you recognize walking the land – some finally become golf holes about five minutes before you seed them.

Click here to read the entire article on 

So hang in there - we'll get through this winter together! Soon enough we'll be teeing off at Black Rock. It will be hard to beat the excitement of last year, with a four-man playoff, but I think Black Rock is up to the challenge! Do you think Ian Thimble will defend his title? Or maybe we'll see an amateur champion for the first time since 1999!

Left: The Commonwealth Cup, given to Low Amateur; Right: The Clarence Cochrane Memorial Trophy, given to overall champion

Qualifying rounds for the Mass Open begin on May 4th at Longmeadow Country Club and wrap up on May 27th.